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Analysis: Crude oil traders uncertain over Apr Das Blend barrels amid concession reshuffle

Singapore — Crude oil traders in Asia were unsure of trading patterns for Abu Dhabi's Das Blend crude grade for April loading, amid an ongoing equity reshuffle of the crude blend's constituent oil fields, they told S&P Global Platts on Monday.

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The emirate on Saturday announced the first of an unknown number of new equity holders in several of its offshore oil fields ahead of the March 8 expiry of the fields' concessions, and market participants Monday were trying to work out the impact of the transition on physical crude trading in the spot market.

"I don't know how they're going to split the [April loading] volume for Das among equity holders," a China-based trader said.

State-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. on Saturday awarded a 10% stake in the new Lower Zakum concession to an Indian consortium consisting of ONGC Videsh Ltd., Indian Oil Corp. and Bharat PetroResources.



The ownership will be effective March 9 and run for 40 years, the company said in a statement on its website.

ADNOC did not reveal any other names of confirmed equity holders, but did say it was restructuring the offshore oil fields into three new separate concessions.

Most traders surveyed by S&P Global Platts weren't sure if any other concessions were awarded or if the incumbents -- BP, Total and Inpex -- were retaining their share.

They also expressed surprise as to how long the concession renewal process had been stretched out, given that the expiry was only a few weeks away.

"Hearing that the concessions are not done yet," a second crude oil trader added. "Not really sure what they're doing," he said.

Barely any barrels of Das Blend were seen on the spot market last month, at a time when the concession negotiations were still underway.

ADNOC at the time had tried to sell most spot March cargoes to its existing term lifters, but it was not known whether the attempt was successful as selling and buying ideas were far apart, market sources said.

"I have no idea how much volume they actually did or at what price, but that was the word on the street," the second crude trader said.

"It was more a [case] of ADNOC offering with very high ideas to those stakeholders, but them not being willing to meet those levels," he added.

Other traders agreed that ADNOC could potentially try to sell April- loading Das Blend in the same manner this month. Cargoes of the crude were yet to be seen offered on the market.

"Currently I haven't heard any Das on the spot market still," the first trader said. "Not sure how they're going to offer it -- last month they offered to term buyers," he added.

"Nothing in the market yet," a third trader said, echoing the term buyer theory.

The uncertainty combined with a relatively softer market this month could push Das Blend spot price differentials down, traders said.

"[There is] potential for discount, especially if it ends up being like last month," the second trader said.

--Eesha Muneeb, eesha.muneeb@spglobal.com
--Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy, geetha.narayanasamy@spglobal.com